• Paula Newman

Dyspraxia, a hidden disability

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Dyspraxia is often referred to as a hidden disability. This blog is my attempt to understand why we are not more aware of Dyspraxia in spite of its numerous effects.

About Dyspraxia

Whilst the exact causes of dyspraxia are not yet fully understood, it is thought that parts of the motor cortex in the brain are immature and consequently messages to the body are not sent out in an efficient manner. Developmental Dyspraxia is present from birth.

Adults and children with Dyspraxia struggle with everyday tasks that others manage easily. Physical movement, behaviour, social interactions and emotions can all be affected. Some people feel anxious and depressed as a result of their difficulties.

Neurodivergence referes to people with neurological differences that affect literacy, numeracy, memory, organisation, concentration, behaviour, perception, listening, communication and social skills. This includes those with Autism, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia is not very visible

~ You would not know that someone is Dyspraxic by looking at them. Dyspraxic people may choose to hide their differences. Instead of letting others see that ‘simple tasks’ such as doing up shoe laces, reading a map and following directions are problematic they might wear slip on shoes and avoid visiting places which they cannot find.

Some people hide their condition by steering clear of compromising situations such as discussions, interviews and public speaking where they are likely to suffer embarrassment due to poor short term memory and difficulty expressing their thoughts coherently.

~ Certain symptoms can become less apparent since people learn to adapt over time. They may develop strategies such as using written directions rather than following a map and concentrating very carefully so as to avoid tripping over.

~ Dyspraxia may not be easily identified since the symptoms and their severity can vary from person to person. For example some but not all dyspraxics have verbal dyspraxia which affects speach.

Furthermore, neurodiverse differences can occur together. For example a person might be autistic and dyspraxic. Since there are some common symptoms such as awkwardness in social situations, dyspraxia might not be identified.

~With Dyspraxia there is an uneven spread of abilities.

A pupil's poor grasp of geometry for example may not be seen as significant because the same pupil is clearly very able when it comes to essay writing.

At the same time, many symptoms of Dyspraxia are noticeable and not very easy to hide

~ In the past Dyspraxia was called 'clumsy child syndrome' because it is evident that children with the condition are prone to tripping over and bumping into people and objects. This is due to poor spatial awareness, poor coordination and weak balance. Dyspraxia continues into adulthood although over time a number of people become better at managing their clumsiness.

~ For some Dyspraxic people running and walking looks awkward due to poor integration of the right and left sides of the body. In my view it is probable that people do notice these traits because they are difficult to miss.

~ Social awkwardness can also be visible. This can include misunderstanding what is being expressed due to literal thinking. With literal thinking it is also difficult to get jokes and therefore to react appropriately. People with Dyspraxia might mistakenly interrupt others in a conversation because it is hard to judge when someone has finished speaking, this is particularly challenging in groups.

Concluding thoughts

In general, some of us are more accident prone than others, not everyone has a good sense of direction, or clear handwriting. Occasionally we might fumble with small motor movements such as inserting a key in the correct position and then manipulating it to unlock a door. In order for Dyspraxia to be recognised as a disability it is important to understand that it is distinguished by the level of difficulty and the number of areas affected. This is not always clearly apparrent.

It seems to me that whilst Dyspraxia is to some extent hidden, there are also many signs of its existence. I wonder whether it is sometimes missed because we might see an aspect of Dyspraxia, say a person finding it impossible to park their car between the two lines in a designated space, without realising that this is the symptom of a disability. Dyspraxia is within our sight but we do not always know what we are looking at.

Contact Paula Newman
Counsellor, Supervisor, Focusing trainer

Donna Gibsen said... 17 March 2017 at 06:53

An informative and awareness raising blog post Paula - thank you. I wonder outside of those affected by dyspraxia, how widely it is known? I was wracking my brain trying to think of when dyspraxia has come up in conversation with friends and family and I have to say I think only once. So my sense is of it being hidden both in terms of not being able to tell someone has it but also hidden (or at least less visible) from mainstream awareness. I'm going to re-post your blog on my FB page to try and circulate it further.

Paula Newman said... 17 March 2017 at 07:06

Thanks very much for your comments Donna and for posting my blog on your FB page. I agree with you that Dyspraxia is hidden from mainstream awareness.

Anonymous said... 23 March 2017 at 05:36

I have only just joined up the dots at age 45. Not clumsy and stupid. Dypraxic and Dyslexic. Keep raising awareness Paula.

Paula Newman said... 23 March 2017 at 11:32

Dear Anonymous, thanks very much for sharing and for your encouragement. Paula

Anonymous said... 4 July 2017 at 01:05

Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post. It was practical. Keep on posting!

Paula Newman said... 4 July 2017 at 01:38

Dear Anonymous, thank you very much for your response and for your encouragement. Paula

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